HERD Documentary of Equinisity Experience by Stefan Morel

If you’ve had anything to do with Equinisity, then you’ve heard about the documentary film made about 3 years ago during one of their retreats.

The creator of the film, Stefan Morel, has just released the video publicly for a limited time so be sure to grab a cup of tea and kick back for this lush naturescape:

I loved the pace and the beauty of this film and I wholeheartedly agree with Liz Mitten Ryan’s closing words at the end of the film; the way we can all – each one of us – make a significant difference due to the technology of our time. Her rallying call to BE the change.

I wish I knew more about Jodi (26:24) her story is mostly absent. She intrigues me… was she a dissenter? Participants knew they would be filmed, so anyone intensely private wouldn’t have signed up for this gig. So where’s/what’s her story?

I wish Stefan had shown that the horses following the humans at liberty were all being rewarded with treats (look for the bum bags) to maintain engagement and compliance. It didn’t feel truthful to me the way he cut the shot before the treat each time – even just to show it once or twice would have been sufficient to maintain authenticity.

I saw a lot of “us humans and our grabby hands” always touching, grasping, pressing bodies against tolerant animals. Do people ever think of the sheer number of random humans who come in and out of these retreats and wonder how the animals feel about their overtures? I’m always wary of the ways we humans assign meaning to others who can’t speak out loud. It was nice to see, towards the end of the film, lots of instances where the horses initiated contact, or moved closer to the humans (without treats or food involved).

I also wish Bodhi’s story had been completed. I felt like his story ran as one of the main themes of the film, but we never found out how he died. Either tell the whole story, or not, but don’t string us along with pieces here and there and then leave us hanging. Just saying.

The film was written and directed by Stefan Morel and he has quite a few other short films with horses as the subject matter on his Vimeo Channel. Be sure to check them out as his videos and photographs are excellent.

What did you think of this film? If you had to pick one aspect, theme, or element that you like best, what would it be?

p.s. I don’t know how long this full-length film is going to be available for, so don’t wait too long to watch it…

HERD Documentary of Equinisity Experience by Stefan Morel

23 thoughts on “HERD Documentary of Equinisity Experience by Stefan Morel

  • January 19, 2020 at 3:15 am
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    I agree I don’t like all the touching by retreat participants and I also don’t like headcollars and leading. It’s unnecessary when there’s a deep connection.

    Equinisity was one of my inspirations several years ago when I started building trust with a group of traumatised horses and uniting them into a healed and bonded herd. However, as my retreats that I facilitated went by I realised quickly that I didn’t want the animals in my care to be subjected to any humans neediness for touching, cuddling, stroking… and even their intense energies that were being released and healed around the herd.

    The herd deserves to be free and not be subjected to this by strangers. Especially when they’re in a deeply peaceful and meditative or sleeping state! Imagine meditating and someone coming up and stroking you. It would be so irritating.

    So I started doing 1:1 retreats on the land and restricting contact and closeness to the herd. I enjoy sharing our land and observing the herd from a distance. If we are deeeplynmjndful and still and the herd join us then that is completely their choice. People can then experience the beautiful connection of togetherness without the need for touch… and how you h can actually ruin that profound stillness, intimacy and soul connection. That way we can learn from this model for change and benefit from immersing in nature and witnessing their mindfulness, freedom, peacefulness and bonded herd beingness without affecting it or them in any way. I’m on my journey with this and no doubt it will continue to evolve.

    Reply
    • January 21, 2020 at 2:01 am
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      This is so interesting Jacqui, the way you have/are evolving. When I was there, it was particularly difficult to see everyone glomming onto the foal all the time (I believe Liz breeds a foal almost every year?). My herd would never tolerate that amount/kind of touching. But… then we’re back to my discussion with Tamara above.

      What I’m interested in is your progression. How many years went by until it no longer felt good to you to have strangers touching/emoting around the herd? And had you done equine-assisted learning prior to that herd?

      I’d also love to know the impact this shift has had on you financially… do you make more or less money now? Just checked out your website (GORGEOUS land and herd!!) and I see that you have 11 equines too! So that’s not cheap. I’m going to assume that you don’t need to use the herd to earn enough to pay for their food and land… Or perhaps you receive enough donations?

      I totally agree with you though, and the horses have taught me that touch often downgrades the experience or transmission. If we watch how horses are with each other, we can get a very good sense/idea of how they regard touch and connection. When Aude was in her deepest pain after her brothers and son left, Zorra and Posa stood near her for HOURS. But not once did they try to touch her – nor did Aude come to them for any kind of touch. But their love and support was strong and palpable.

      Reply
  • January 19, 2020 at 7:19 am
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    Also jumping on the touching band wagon! It seems to be such a human desire-non thought. I think so many are use to dogs…that mostly …usually really desire or welcome touch! So when they are around other animals they feel they will be the same! The horses I share life with do NOT like to have there faces touched! Who can blame them? Us humans would really trip…if when we met people they went straight to touch our faces! It would be so unexceptable …we also seem to do it to children? I was also a horse face toucher until I really started listening and realized how much most of them destain it! Bullet who has enormous halter/bridle scars on his face …is ok …with me kissing him…but I do it very infrequently now….just once in awhile… I want that soft muzzle and he will oblige me!
    I enjoyed the scenery in this film! The nature was gorgeous and I get forest envy! Although I am so grateful for the nature all around us…forests are just so much more complex then the foothills where we live! But truthfully all nature has beauty unique to itself …so it’s all amazing! I too felt the movie was incomplete with story line and other interests! I think the invasion on the foal and mom was also not ideal! I personally do/have used food reward…but not clicker training per say ..it’s .a process we have found that works for us! Although in the last year I have gotten more away from “so called training” and like you said they should of just been more forthcoming with showing the treats! I personally think each horse human combo needs to find what resonates with both of them? The other part of all this is…I don’t know that I am a fan of making a habit of surrounding horses or any animal with sad/tragic/angry/confused human emotions! Such a heavy atmosphere and it feels a bit dark for the horses! I know they are the best teachers on the planet but I give a ton of attention and care to the horses I share life with and in return I feel I receive a lot from them and that they Eb and flow with my good and bad times! These horses although they clearly brought the humans joy/salvation/new reflections …it just seems like a lot of funk they are in inundated with? ✌🏼❤️🐴

    Reply
    • January 21, 2020 at 1:42 am
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      Very good points Michelle. Your last bit about putting the humans emotional burden on them is why Deidre West and I discussed so much (in our podcast) about setting up equine-assisted therapy settings so that the horse has true freedom of choice and can walk FAR away if they want to, and to not close any gates.

      On the other hand, as Tamara and I discussed above, I think Liz HAS to run these retreats to fund their keep. So in that case, the horses need to work for their food and land, and being that they get most of the day free on 300 acres and then at least 6 months off per year… they seemed okay with this arrangement when I was there 😉

      I totally agree with you about the face touching! And it’s such an individual thing; not just being touched on the face, but where on the face, and how often, for how long, etc. All of mine have different boundaries/preferences around face touching. Thankfully Aude is almost always up for a good smooch on her soft muzzle!

      Reply
  • January 19, 2020 at 7:48 am
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    I think the photography and pace in the film are beautiful. I always have a bodily reaction when people say “The Horses will heal us”, I don’t believe in putting them on a pedestal or having them be responsible for our “healing”. They are authentic beings by their nature, and spending time with them can be healing, but don’t make them our “healers” and put that on them. I agree, a lot of touching and grabbing, but at least they were at liberty and could walk away most of the time. I also agree about the treats, there is nothing wrong with a treat here and there but be honest where the connection is stemming from. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this documentary, some are just a gut feeling that I need to sit with and see what emerges after watching it again after it first came out.

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    • January 21, 2020 at 1:32 am
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      Interesting Carrie – I wonder what your gut is signalling to you? And yes, I agree with you about not pedestaling ANY being. And certainly not making another responsible for healing us – yuck and almost guaranteed not to work!

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  • January 19, 2020 at 6:27 pm
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    Hi Jini!

    Thanks for sharing!

    I think the main point of this film is to remind us of our beingness, of the expanse of who we are and of what we can learn from animals and Mother Earth if we quiet and listen. Each of us has a unique view on how to achieve this, one not more right than the other.

    I personally don’t care about how or what happened with the individual stories – this is just drama and I think takes away from the essence of the film.

    I guess those of us who are uneducated to the food reward system wouldn’t have seen that that was happening – and it doesn’t really matter that they miss it does it? I saw it, but I would be pot calling the kettle black if I said that I didn’t ‘use’ my animals either. I do. Every week they come and help me put food on my table because as yet I haven’t worked out how to do it otherwise. I was under no false illusions about the horses and their ‘willingness’, but that just isn’t the point of the whole film is it?

    Jini, I believe with all my heart that the way you communicate and be with your herd is the way of the future – but most of the world are SO very far away from that! How do they begin to come in contact with this if there isn’t even a spec of a base of this within them?

    The road I walk could be a very very complicated one. But I have chosen to keep it as simple as I can. And my horses keep choosing to be with me and for the most part, willingly come. I don’t ask for tricks, or anything of them other than what’s needed to get the job done in the best way possible for them and the cattle.

    The other thing that is soooo important I believe, is that for every medium offering their view of how to be healed, whole and moving to a more connected earth, should be applauded. I have come to realise that there is rightness in most things. Others would argue all things. I don’t really know. And I can’t know how that is for others. I know my job is to see the beauty in everyone and remind them that they are a piece of god and trust that they will continue to grow and act accordingly – just like I have.

    What I’m trying to say is feeling annoyed about another persons view point is in my experience a futile endeavour. I have to honour that the overgrazed land I work, I don’t own, so can do little to physically heal it. That the cattle I muster are poorly handled always, when I am not there. And the horses that are not in my care have lives soo awful it would make you weep. Every time I go out to work, this is what I deal with. I can’t afford to see all the injustices and abuse to the animals and land – I used to, and it broke me! All I can do is be me, unapologetically, wholeheartedly and offer these other humans, through my example, a better way to be and the animals a reprieve when I’m there. And try to have an unconditional acceptance of the human in front of me, of their story and what has led them to be so shut off from empathy. Often this has led to a change, often drastic, for the better.

    I think this is what you do to with LTYH, you offer another way of being, of connecting of listening and ultimately healing ❤️ And a snapshot to the future when this is the only way of horse interaction. Except it won’t be on small acreage to be 100% authentic will it….

    Much love Jini and I pray that you continue to move through your pain with much peace and love.

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    • January 20, 2020 at 6:02 am
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      Dear Tamara,
      Thank you for your kindness, for your unwavering depth of seeing and presence. What utter gorgeousness of a viewpoint you share!
      The grace you express through your words touches me deeply.
      Christina

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      • January 21, 2020 at 3:05 am
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        Thank you Christina, for your kind words. Everyday I work towards being a better parent and healing from my traumatised past – not everyday I manage to be kind, compassionate or wise, I wish I could.

        Take care
        Tam

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    • January 21, 2020 at 1:26 am
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      Wow, so much to answer/discuss here Tamara. I appreciate so much everything you’ve brought forward here and love that you choose to share your insights, your struggles and your gifts with us. Thank you.

      I think the way that I am with my herd is a privilege. It is a blessing both for me and the horses. And it is only possible (in such large number) because I make enough money to support the horses from my business. I know that is not always possible for other people.

      I personally know a few people who are in partnership with their horses to earn a living for all of them. I think that’s a whole different ballgame and the same parameters do not apply. I’ll give you an example: A friend of mine works with her horses to provide transformative experiences for kids on the autism spectrum. She NEEDS to make money with her herd, or she could not afford to house and feed them. But I still feel she is in true integrity and soul-partnership with her horses because she is HONEST with them about what life with her entails. Her horses have chosen to WORK with her.

      I’ve dialogued quite a bit with another man who is an old timey cowboy. His horses are needed to manage cattle, from which he derives the money to feed and care from them all. His horses understand that they are working partners and he has one horse who gets upset if he takes another horse out for a challenging task! Because that soulmate horse LOVES to work with him and feels equal responsibility. One time, he took another horse out to get a bull who’d escaped into the wrong pasture and they just couldn’t bring this bull in. His soulmate horse decided to take matters into his own hands, escaped his corral (where he’d been put to rest because he’d been working so hard) and went out and got the bull himself. I kid you not.

      So even though this horse was working hard for this man, he seemed to be quite happy and even fulfilled to do so. Kesia and I have often discussed this kind of working partnership as being similar to martial arts training. When you get on the mat, the sensei is in charge – you willingly put yourself under his/her direction. Even when it’s hard, even when you suffer physically, because the goal, the sensei-student relationship is rewarding enough.

      I never gave my childhood horse, Dobbin, the option of not being ridden. It never entered my head to do so! And yet, not only did she venture out willingly with me, she would often command me to go riding. She nurtured and detoxed my soul and kept me alive through a very difficult time. And she did so willingly. When I was discussing riding with Aude and I sent her pictures of the bond Dobbin and I shared, and how Dobbin would flow energy up through my body and drain away all my trauma… Aude recoiled and said, “Eeewww! Manage yourself! If we ride, we will ride as equals – this is beneath you and you will not be siphoning off my energy.” Of course she was dead right. What was appropriate – and vitally needed then – is gross and yucky now. For me.

      So that’s why the stories I share and the interactions I show are simply meant to bear witness. NOT to tell anyone else how they should be with their horse(s). Or even to say that one way is superior to another. All roads lead to Rome. Intention and integrity are what really matter – and those are determined by each person’s (and horse’s) particular situation, character, maturity, destiny, personality, values, goals, etc.

      Which brings me to my next point about our difficulty in seeing horses abused and unconditional love and acceptance. I’m reminded of a podcast I listened to with renowned animal communicator Anna Breytenbach. She was talking about zoo animals. I’m someone who did not even go to zoos with my children, because I couldn’t bear to see the animals in prison and suffering. And you know what Anna said? She said that the zoo animals do not want you to feel sorry for them – that doesn’t help them or make them feel better. What makes them feel better is for us to see through their current situation to the magnificence of their true self! And to revere, and admire who they really are.

      And yes, the same thing for the humans treating the animals (or other humans) poorly. You can’t give what you don’t have. We humans act out what is inside us. We abuse because we have been abused and have not yet healed or transformed our own pain and trauma. As you said, the best we can do is to simply BE ourselves. As loving, compassionate and wise as we currently are. Again, that is the work with the Singing Horse herd that I try to bear witness to. Then people take it, leave it, or are enraged by it… as they choose. It’s all good.

      Wishing you, me, and all of us, compassion and resilience xox

      Reply
      • January 21, 2020 at 2:59 am
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        Thank you Jini for your very in-depth reply. I really admire how humble and open you continue to be. I feel that you seem to be one of the few people I can trust with the very depths of my soul to give me an educated, emotionally mature response, not a triggered response. I wondered if I shouldn’t have commented at all.

        How you manage to find the ‘space’ to interact with so many people all over the world, and to genuinely give of yourself so authentically and openly I don’t know.

        Thank you, Jini, your reply has helped me on more levels than you could possibly know.

        Take care xxoo

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        • January 21, 2020 at 7:29 am
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          Tamara….this is a beautiful safe space but at the same time we all do get to share what is in our own hearts and situations! It feels like peace and I so appreciate it toooooo! Your response was deep and authentic and I think that’s what we all strive for! It doesn’t have to match or be the same as someone else …that’s the point…each of us shares a different perspective and our lives are vastly different..yet the same in so many ways! I learn and am opened more by each post and all the comments that follow!

          I myself…ride/rode (2 mostly retired) the horses I share life with… not to make a living or sustain a livelihood but for the pure joy of it! Dreamer is my partner and although I know he doesn’t always want to go when we do go …he almost always seems to engage and connect with me and the nature we go exploring! He is very willing when there is another horse but we mostly ride alone as I don’t have a consistent human/horse duo to go with! Riding so far is authentic to me…I have had this desire for as long as I can remember and Dreamer indulges me! I try very hard to make the rest of his life as best and free as possible and try not to over do my asking of him! So far it is …in my heart at least…. a great partnership and I am grateful for him and all that the horses I share life with offer me!

          We all just have to do us…and keep walking the path that is true and in front of us! If that path has a fork…then we make that choice as we get there!
          ✌🏼❤️🐴

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          • January 22, 2020 at 12:05 am
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            Thank you Michelle. ❤️
            I love reading your comments. You always seem to exude Joy and Love and warmth.

            Take care x

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          • January 26, 2020 at 9:05 pm
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            I am in discussions with many of the horses about riding, actually for several years now. And I am slowly amassing video footage of some of those conversations. Not sure where it’s all headed, but the horses are in charge and they are (of course) showing me MANY things about my own projections, limitations, skanky energy, preconceptions, etc. Will just keep walking the path!

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        • January 21, 2020 at 10:17 pm
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          I’m so pleased Tamara – I think this discussion should actually be a separate blog post…. You brought up important points for discussion/sharing and only a fraction of people will see it here in the comments section. Email me if you’d like to write more about this… xox

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          • January 27, 2020 at 10:45 am
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            Agreed – Tamara, you often show up and write so viscerally and transparently about this wild edge we all try to ride in our own ways, with our own versions of balance, between honour, love, duty, grit, truth, and showing up as we are, right now, in beautiful imperfection.

            It’s a gift for us all. Like Jini said, some of us have a particular kind of privilege to let our horses exist almost entirely on their own terms; but this isn’t “better than”, it just is. Above all it’s that honesty and authenticity that says, “this is where I’m at. This is where I’m aiming for. These are the choices I am making.” And that is true empowerment and healing at its core, to simply be able to look at who we are, and share that.

            I think most of us here have a really strong bullshit meter – when I was younger and enmeshed in various incarnations of “the horse world”, that was what pissed me off most specifically, the smoke and mirrors and ego-soothing of justifying something that didn’t actually line up. Trainers spouting their party line about why they did what they did, without just admitting “this is how I make my living, this is how I feed my horses,” or, “I do this because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t,” or, “I wish I had a better way but I don’t yet”.

            Anyway. I love these conversations. I think nuance will save us.

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  • January 19, 2020 at 7:58 pm
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    I was taken by surprise that this was about a retreat setting with human stories included. Visually definitely a beautiful movie and I always appreciate any and all paths leading towards a greater sense of wholeness.
    I wasn’t particularly wowed by the movie, though – didn’t find it super engaging; at first it sounded like a commercial for the author/artist’s retreats.
    I also don’t agree that they weren’t using “pressure” : don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to the pressure of a swinging lead rope or of intention or of a stare….but that IS pressure. I didn’t see (and the movie didn’t want to play the last ten minutes) any “invitational” space being offered.
    I love how horses, when they feel honored and seen, create this contemplative field and it was wonderful to see how they shared it with the participants.

    Reply
    • January 21, 2020 at 2:08 am
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      Gotta agree with you on both counts! It’s not really a documentary in that there is only admiration and accolades – there’s no tension or opposing ideas.

      And yes, it’s always interesting to watch people showing how they “get horses to do things” yet claiming they’re not pressuring the horse. It’s kind of an impossibility. Horses given true choice say “No” or “Not right now” a lot! I should know 😉

      Reply
      • January 27, 2020 at 4:45 am
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        Lol, yes they do seem to say “no” a lot and yet, at the same time I feel they do offer “yes” often, too. I have observed, within myself and watching some others, that what happens when the “yes” is offered, the human isn’t ready : either not present, or having a moment of doubt or even thought, instead of being able to fully embrace that “YES” offered. And that is an immediate “turn off”: “oh, you don’t align with my yes? No problem! I respect your choice.” And on the horse goes with its horsey business 😉

        Reply
  • January 21, 2020 at 10:31 pm
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    Ohhhh, I so loved the visual beauty of this!!! From the cat purring loudly, to the horse chewing, to the rain and thunderstorm, and the light…. Oh my, that light! For me it was a visually glorious time. That land is amazing. I would so love to live on land like that! Ha! We live in an amazing place already, but that is outstanding.

    I do want to say that I have read about Equinisity before, and I have also read Jini’s blog of when she was there, and I do have some bias about the way the horses are treated…. but funny enough, in watching this and feeling into the horses, I got that the horses and Liz have this mutual understanding that this is how it is. And it works. They get something, she gets something. I wanted to go beyond what I think, what my mind wants to figure out (I can write another comment about that!) but I love that I got that info, because it was not what I was thinking. The horses are OK with what happens, all the touching and grabbing and “healing”.They can totally handle that. I’ll write more soon about my thoughts and also about all the others responding!

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    • January 26, 2020 at 8:53 pm
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      Yes I agree Vittoria – no one was asking me for ‘help’ of any kind when I was there. In fact, two of them (who could hardly walk) told me I was not required to say anything to Liz – that they were in process with her and did not need me to speak for them, thank you very much!

      And yes, the cinematography was beautiful, I love the way he paced it to force people to slow down, and sink into the pace of nature.

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  • January 25, 2020 at 1:23 pm
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    I, too, enjoyed the sensory intensity of this documentary. I didn’t notice any of the animals shying away from the human contact. I think, for me, if these sentient beings have a choice to be involved in this work, if in their life journey, they are here as gifted healers, then what a blessed place this is. I saw a little coercion, manipulation, and dominance, like the treats and I’m really not sure if those treats weren’t there for the human to overcome any resistance toward these horses/ cow. And I’m not sure about the segment of having the horse perform….walking over the filled tractor tires. Is this fun? I don’t know what that was about.

    The term retreat is chuck full of healing promise and process. Still, regardless of the treat incentive, I saw a lot of soft horse/human eyes, faces, ears, relaxed bodies, ….. stillness and meditation in an astonishing short period of time between horse/cow, and human. The pairing was interesting. Who chose whom?

    There is no mention of the horses history. Were/are they wildies? Wildies especially need space to overcome the instinctual need to flee from those who would eat them: the human, coyote, wolf, big cat and bear. Or have these beings known people since birth and found our grabby hands an exchange in comfort? Because I didn’t see resistance, my sense is helping humans is their Devine purpose. I am sorry that we humans are so broken; but, extremely grateful that there is sacred ground where healing takes place.

    I really like the last segment where the herd is free and I enjoyed their movement away from us. Kinda like getting into my car to drive home after a hard days work.

    Reply
    • January 26, 2020 at 8:49 pm
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      Hi Claudia, these horses are mostly warmbloods – all bred by Liz from the same sire that lives in the area (hence most are very similar in color).

      I love what you wrote here, so poignant: ” I am sorry that we humans are so broken; but, extremely grateful that there is sacred ground where healing takes place.”

      Reply

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